Diplomats and confused retired generals

Innocent people are dying in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Gaza. Enough problems for world leaders to worry about? Yet when Britain’s former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt, gave his carers the slip this week and found himself in a BBC studio, he informed the startled interviewer that the current situation in Ukraine is not just a return to the Cold War, it’s a return to the 1930s with Putin playing the part of Hitler. Rather than being told by the interviewer to stay calm – the nice men in the white coats are on their way to take you back to the home, he was listened to in respectful silence. The BBC is, after all, adept at peddling nonsense to which its current paymasters subscribe – it’s been repeating ad nauseam this week the briefings emanating from the US government (or just the hawks in Washington?) that democratic governments in Europe need to cut their social spending and apply it to military spending and meeting their commitments to NATO. As if our social spending had not already taken a beating as a result of the financial crisis triggered by corrupt US banks!

Military spending in general and NATO in particular are not the solution to the problems in Ukraine, they are the problem. NATO ceased to have a purpose following the end of the Cold War and should have been wound up then as part of the peace dividend  – whatever happened to that?  Instead NATO has been allowed to grow, vacuuming up former soviet states as if there will be no tomorrow (as there may very well not be with this policy!) and is now threatening to put its tanks (sorry, our tanks) on the very borders of Russia. The best thing those attending the NATO summit this week could do would be, after reminding themselves that Russia is still a nuclear state, to wind up NATO and instruct our diplomats, not our confused retired generals, to broker a solution to the problems in Ukraine.

CROYDON TUC CONVENES A CROYDON ASSEMBLY on 15 NOVEMBER 2014

The government has been trumpeting that economic recovery is under way: according to figures published by the Office of National Statistics, unemployment in the UK fell by 121,000 in the three months to May; the rate of unemployment fell to 6.5% from 6.6% in the three months to 31 March, l the lowest level in nearly six years; the number claiming jobseekers allowance has fallen to 1.04 million; and more than 78% of men and 68% of women are now in work.

The Tories are desperate to persuade enough of the electorate, or at least enough of the electorate who can be bothered to vote, that the economic crisis triggered by the bank collapse in 2008 is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

After four years of austerity, government borrowing remains more or less where it was following the banking collapse. But reducing government borrowing was never what the coalition’s continuing austerity programme is about. It is an attack on the living standards of working people and it is succeeding. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, after inflation, the real, hourly pay of workers under the age of 30 has collapsed by 11% since 2008; and their household incomes are down 15%. Meanwhile, rents are up and the property market for buy-to-rent is soaring.
Every capitalist state requires a large pool of unemployed workers in order to subdue the rest and keep profits rolling in. This could be achieved with an even lower unemployment rate than we are currently experiencing – provided further measures are put in place to cow workers. This is why Cameron is threatening to further restrict trade unions and workplace rights and why there will be further tightening of unemployment and other benefits. These measures ensure that workers can be pressed into employment at rates of pay that scarcely provide for their subsistence and ensure that their kids will never be in a position to enjoy even this modest level of subsistence or have families of their own.
The solutions are obvious. We need the government to promote trade unions, not attack them. We need solid financial support for our young people before they enter employment, not student loans. We need a living wage, not the derisory minimum wage. We need security of tenure for tenants and a huge council house building programme. Only with a bedrock of social housing will the private sector curtail its exploitative behaviour. We need generous social security benefits and an end to attacks on claimants. We need a media that doesn’t attack the unemployed and foreigners, not one owned by billionaires who fund the Tories and yet don’t themselves pay tax.

The Labour Party, or at least a significant element within it, once supported all these measures. These days they believe in “equality of opportunity” and seek to appeal to upwardly mobile “hard working families”. Don’t they understand that for every family on the way up, there is one on the way down, and that working class families have kids and these kids won’t be in a position to start families if nothing is done?

If enough pressure is brought to bear on the Labour Party, it could be brought round again to progressive policies. This is the idea behind Croydon TUC’s recent decision to launch a Croydon Assembly, bringing together workers, special interest groups and local activists in the area. A meeting of the Assembly has been called for Saturday, 15 November at Ruskin House, South Croydon. The Communist Party gives this initiative its full support. Whether Labour can be shifted from the secure middle ground that offers it the prospect of winning, or at least sharing, power at the general election in 2015 as the ‘least worst option’ remains to be seen. One thing is clear. This is the last opportunity to attempt this. If Labour takes power and continues with further austerity and more neo-liberal policies, or indeed, if it loses the election having stood on a platform of such policies, we will have to conclude that, as they say, the party’s over.

END THE ASSULT ON WELFARE

The government’s cruel and unnecessary cap on social security spending sailed through Parliament towards the end of last month.

Croydon Communists set out five reasons why the cap is wrong.
• It subjects vulnerable people’s needs to an arbitrary spending limit
• It perpetuates the myth that social security spending has got “out of control”
• It does nothing to address key underlying reasons for the welfare budget
• It will fuel the demonization of people on benefits
• It will do nothing to help those in real need

Only 13 Labour MPs voted against it. A few more would have done, but were legitimately absent.

Nevertheless, the vote was disappointing. It shows that the Labour Party leadership, the only ones who for all practical purposes, can form an alternative government to the hated con/dems after the general election in 2015 have little concern for the most vulnerable.

The vote came on the day HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said it is shedding 17% of jobs from its specialist tax division – the staff who deal with higher rate taxpayers and more
complex cases.

The reason, cited by a senior manager, was that they “are being challenged to deliver more with less” and is part of a wider plan by HMRC to axe thousands more posts in the coming months and years.

Just one week ago, chancellor George Osborne claimed in his budget speech: “I am increasing HMRC’s budget to tackle non-compliance.”

What complete tosh!

Mark Serwotka General Secretary of the mighty PCS civil service union, who organise both social security and tax office staff said: “The welfare cap is not a solution to anything, it is a gimmick, and a very nasty and dangerous one that will cruelly punish vulnerable people whose lives depend on the support benefits and tax credits provide.

“With tens of billions of pounds lost every year through corporate tax avoidance, MPs should hang their heads in shame that they are voting for a cap that risks driving more people into poverty and putting more families on the streets.”

How true. All the more reason for Croydonians to vote Communist if possible at the local elections on 22 May. Croydon’s Communists oppose and will continue to oppose, every assault on Britain’s welfare state, which came about under a Labour government in 1945.

Nigel Green

Future is bleak for Londoners if Boris blunders on

Boris Johnson displaying his razor sharp political witThe recession will bite even deeper in London unless voters return Ken Livingstone as Mayor on May 3, according to the Communist Party in London.

The party is urging the left to unite again in support of the former mayor, warning that the future is bleak if Boris Johnston is returned to the post.

Steve Johnson, London District Secretary of the CP, says: “The election of Boris Johnson in 2008 has been a disaster for Londoners with his programme of budget cuts, underinvestment, above inflation fare rises and attacks on jobs and services.

“The cuts agenda being pursued by the Con-Dem government in Whitehall is being faithfully pursued from City Hall by Johnson and his administration. Threats to bus services, tube station ticket offices and the transport infrastructure project Crossrail are a warning of what Londoners can expect if Johnson wins another term in May.

“By contrast Ken Livingstone has adopted a principled opposition to the government’s austerity measures. He has also advanced progressive positions on many of the key strategic areas within the mayor’s remit: housing, public transport and the environment. The Communist Party particularly endorses his commitment to engage with transport workers on policy matters. We also welcome the commitment to job creation through major infrastructure projects.”

Communist Party activists are already focusing on building unity on the left in London to ensure the defeat of Boris Johnson’s administration. As well as campaigning for the election of Ken Livingstone as mayor, they want to see the election of a Labour majority in the Greater London Authority.

And Steve Johnson warns: “The battle against cuts and privatisation will need to continue after the election and  we will also be calling on Labour candidates to reject the rule of the free market and to advance the interests of working people in London.

“To help meet this objective we will be producing an Alternative Economic strategy for London for debate amongst the wider labour movement.”